Consistently listed among Jackson Pollock’s most famous works, No. 31 One is an iconic piece of Abstract Expressionism. It originates from Pollock’s “drip period” (1947-1950), during which he established the artistic method he is so well known for.
The creation of this painting began by laying the canvas on the floor. Breaking away from the easel carried great significance for Pollock. “On the floor, I am more at ease,” he writes in an article for a small magazine in 1948. “I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.”
Pollock then proceeded to vigorously drip, dribble, flick and pour household enamel paint onto the flat canvas using sticks, stiffened brushes and other objects. Evident from photographs taken while he worked, this process required great energy as he maintained constant movement around and on the canvas – energy tangibly visible in the final result.
No. 31 One also has another story to tell. When a restoration project to clean and preserve this artwork began in 2012, conservators discovered inconsistencies.
Further inspection using X-ray, ultraviolet light and paint sample analysis revealed several altered areas. Comparison to photographs showed that the additions were definitely made between 1962 and 1968, long after Pollock’s death in 1956.
The patchwork add-ons are speculated to be the result of someone desperately trying to conceal damage to the painting, likely in order to increase its sale value.
After extensive analysis, conservators removed all the offending alterations and restored the painting. Of course they took care to preserve the quirks imbedded during No. 31 One's creation, like the fly still trapped in the right-hand corner after all these decades.
Tom Gurney in an art history expert. He received a BSc (Hons) degree from Salford University, UK, and has also studied famous artists and art movements for over 20 years. Tom has also published a number of books related to art history and continues to contribute to a number of different art websites. You can read more on Tom Gurney here.